More federal control wrong direction for education

By Dennis Gasper for the Republican Party of Sheboygan County

Recently, I listened to a presentation by Karen Schroeder, president of Advocates for Academic Freedom and a member of Governor Walker’s Educational Communications Board. Advocates for Academic Freedom is an educational consulting firm and proponent of eliminating federal control of education and returning to fact-based curricula, accountability, and academic excellence in public education. Schroeder has 36 years of teaching experience. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that are now being implemented in our Wisconsin schools were the subject of her presentation and the Q&A that followed.

According to Schroeder, CCSS will give the federal government the authority to determine what will be taught in every subject in every classroom in the country, effectively federalizing education. When fully implemented, the federal government will have control of assessment tools and textbooks used in core subjects. Since school choice students will have to pass the federal exams in order for their schools to be accredited, they will also have to study the same federal curricula. State and local control of our schools will be lost, but even more disturbing, according to the critics, is that academic standards will be lowered and social engineering and political indoctrination will be the goal.

Among the many critics of CCSS cited by Schroeder is Dr. Sandra Stotsky, a Professor of Education Reform and 21st Century Chair in Teacher Quality at the University of Arkansas, and a member of the Common Core English Language Arts Validation Committee. She explains that the English standards are “empty skill sets” and “weaken the base of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.” Stotsky rated the English standards a “D” and refused to sign off on them.

Another critic, Ze’ve Wurman, past senior policy adviser in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development in the US Department f Education, states: “Common Core replaces the traditional foundation of Euclidean geometry with an experimental approach.” He also states that most CC math proficiencies are 1-2 years behind currently high performing states and other international competitors.

In my own research, I discovered that a Dr. Milgram of Stanford

University and the only mathematician on the Common Core Math Validation Committee, refused to sign off on the standards. He stated: “The special interest sources were focused on making the math standards as non-challenging as possible…The Core Mathematics Standards are written to reflect very low expectations.”

Schroeder touched on other concerns. The cost to implement CCSS will be backbreaking for states and local school districts, requiring new textbooks, expensive testing and technology, teacher training, and more. CCSS ignore student and parental privacy rights. Implementation includes development of a database to collect data (IQ scores, test scores, disciplinary and medical records, etc.) on students from the time they enter school to adulthood; this data will be shared among “governmental agencies” without requiring permission from students or parents.

Based on the people, organizations, and history behind its development, Schroeder expressed her concern that CCSS curricula will teach anti- American values—surrender of the U.S. Constitution, of national sovereignty, and of individual rights—in the interest of promoting students’ view of themselves as members of the “world community.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Karen Schroeder, she does have many years of teaching experience and keeps herself updated on federal and international discussion on the subject of education. She is not alone in her opposition to CCSS; there has been a backlash against CCSS on the right and on the left. At least 18 states are contesting the standards, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is seeking to defund Common Core, and the president of the American Federation of Teachers has called for a “midcourse correction.”

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, taxpayer, or educator, you should be concerned about the direction of education in America. If we are headed for more federal control we must ask ourselves: what is it that the federal government does well? The answer would suggest that we are heading in the wrong direction.

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